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Toronto the Naughty

2008_05_21Amsterdam.jpg
Photo of Amsterdam’s Red Light District by Stuck in Customs.
With all this talk about promoting tourism, all kinds of ideas have been proposed, from improving our toilets to depicting the city as a tattoo. These suggestions are a good start, but it is also important to look at one of the biggest attractions that brings people to cities: entertainment.
With all the focus on making Toronto better, maybe some of our efforts ought to be shifted to making Toronto badder.


2008_05_21Vegas.jpg
Photo of Las Vegas Boulevard by mandj98 on Flickr.
As a city that wants to attract tourists, one of the worst things we could be doing is cracking down on nightlife. Since the industry generates at least $125 million in revenue annually, how can any responsible politician hope that the Entertainment District “simply disappears”? A major gaffe in this economic sphere was raiding the Comfort Zone. Those who argue that such tourism is driven by lowlifes with no money to spend on the local economy need only to consider the case of the hedge fund manager who was a victim of entrapment at the Zone. Also, imagine if one were simply a visiting tourist from a city where parties go past 2 a.m., looking to keep the night going a little longer, when suddenly the police bust in and stomp on people’s heads. We can imagine never wanting to return to Toronto again. Thousands of tourists stream across Canada’s borders to visit Toronto’s Entertainment District every weekend, but if we allow over-enforcement to kill our nightlife, there will be nothing left for the tourists to see.
And what about last call? Imagine an advertising campaign on Montreal’s public transit that says simply, “Last call in Toronto is now 4 a.m. Bienvenue!” One of the reasons people love going to Montreal is because they can drink late.
With the loss of the Molson Indy, it may be wise to look at other proposals for Exhibition Place, specifically making the CNE Casino operational year-round. Open for a measly five weeks in the summer, the Casino could actually keep people in Toronto instead of heading down to Niagara Falls for the essential gambling road trip. If it weren’t for the AGCO, we could probably even open a few more in the city, but our plans to actually make some coin are once again foiled by the Province.
When Americans think about Canada, they think about marijuana. Tourism was definitely down during the SARS outbreak in 2003, but one of the things that probably prevented an all-out collapse of the tourism industry was The Summer of Pot, that narrow window in the warmer months of 2003 when Ontario simply had no laws on the books concerning marijuana’s legal status. People streamed in from all over to take advantage of this unique legal situation, but when the smoke cleared, there was still only one tourist-friendly pot café, The Hot Box. All other attempted café businesses have been swiftly shut down by the police, but why? Would it really be so hard for the police to look the other way while the city enjoys some extra cash from people visiting Toronto’s many hemp houses, like in Vancouver?
And finally, a little bit more “red-light district” would look good on you, Toronto. Something’s really got to be done about that brothel law.
In a city where tourism is the top industry, we could use a little more vice. Who misses Toronto the Good? Some tourists want Toronto the Naughty.

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